Review of Norwegian Breakaway: (two friends traveling together)
Embarkation - Arrived close to 11:00. Pier was busy, but not overly crowded. Check-in took less than 15 minutes. Was handed a group boarding number while waiting in check-in line, which was more efficient than after check-in (as we have experienced in the past). We were in group 7 and waited about 10 minutes to board the ship.
Immediately proceeded to Guest Services on Deck 6 to reserve Vibe Beach Club. This is an adults-only oasis with a private bar, lounge chairs and beds, as well as two hot tubs (no pool). Water is provided, as well as towels and fruit kabobs. The fee is $79 for the week and there are only 60 passes available. If all are not sold, a daily pass is available for $24. There are also 5 cabanas which are $199 for the week (not worth the extra expense unless you want a private pod for two). This is not advertised and is pretty well hidden. It is on the 17th deck close to the private Haven area. This is a great option if you like to get away from the noisy pool crowd. Was a great choice for us.
You have several choices for lunch after boarding the ship, including the buffet (16th deck), O'Sheahans (7th deck) or the dining room (Taste/Savor) (6th deck). We chose the dining room (more on dining later).
Cabin - Cabins were ready during lunch, so we checked out our balcony cabin 13754. It was close to mid ship and convenient to the elevators. Room was comfortable size with two twin beds, large sofa, mini-bar, and good sized bathroom for a cruise ship. The balcony was the smallest we have ever had on a cruise ship; barely big enough for two chairs. Our steward (Rudolfo) was efficient and friendly, but we rarely saw him.
Ship Layout - This is a very large ship (4500 passengers). The layout was actually done quite well, particularly when compared with Epic, which had several dead-end hallways to nowhere. Deck Six is home to the Atrium, which is the large area with a huge screen for movies, games, etc. It is adjacent to Guest Services, Shore Excursions, etc. There is a nice coffee bar in this area that has good coffee-house drinks (for a fee), as well as Carlo's Bakery baked goods (Carlo's bakery is only open 2 hours a day in the afternoon and is near the outside promenade; same with the gelato shop). Deck 7 is home to the casino. This is in the center of the ship, and gets a lot of traffic. You have to go through the casino to get almost anywhere on Deck 7. O'Sheehan's is also on this deck. Decks 8-15 are primarily cabins. Deck 16 is home to the pool, spa and buffet.
Dining - Overall a good experience. Most of the time we ate in the dining rooms (Manhattan/Taste/Savor) or O'Sheehan's. Tried to stay away from the buffet because it is normally very chaotic, and with the 1500 children aboard this sailing it was likely to be even more so). Manhattan (at the back of the ship, deck 7) was normally open for breakfast and lunch. O'Sheehan's is open 24 hours. You have more choices at breakfast at Manhattan. O'Sheehan's pub has the normal egg/omelette/French toast options. Both are good. Lunch at Manhattan's was good as well, a little more variety than the pub and a little more formal. We found the quality of food to be good in most cases (avoid the salmon cakes at lunch). Soups in the dining rooms were always good. You also have a choice of salads, appetizers, full entrees and deserts. The last night we ate at Moderno, which was good. There is a huge salad bar, as well as a steady stream of grilled meats brought to your table to choose from. The coconut flan for desert was excellent. If you want to try a specialty restaurant, we have found that the last night of the cruise is normally a good time to do it since you typically get better food and service there.
Bars/Beverages: We discovered an option to pre-purchase 4 bottles of wine (which you pick up at any bar/dining room individually when you want). You can carry them to your cabin, dinner, pool, bar, etc. and the bartenders will provide the glasses/ice, etc. as needed. There are several price levels, but we chose the most economical, which was $88 for four bottles. You have basic choices of the reds and whites, but if you want something pricier it is available as well. The bars were okay, but we did not find one that was particularly warm and inviting on this ship. On past cruises NCL used to offer deals such as two for one martinis, wine, beer, etc. during happy hour, but we did not see this option on the Breakaway.
Casino/Entertainment: Casino is on Deck 7, right in the middle of the ship and you have to walk through it to get anywhere on that deck. It is normally very smoky. Probably the tightest machines I have ever played on a cruise ship, so I wouldn't recommend the slots unless you have cash to throw away. Drink servers were either too plentiful or scarce, depending on the time of day.
Saw Burn the Floor and Rock of Ages. Burn the Floor is like Dancing with the Stars. Rock of Ages had good rock and roll music, but could have done without the dialogue in between songs. Both okay for cruise ship entertainment. Did not go to Comedy Club or Cirque show.
Ports: First stop was Port Canaveral (Orlando). Did not get off the boat since there is not much to do unless you book an excursion. Spent the day at Vibe. Second stop was the private beach (Cay), but ship did not dock due to bad weather and high winds. Proceeded on to Bahamas, where the boat docked overnight and through the next day. Got off and walked around the port, but did not go to Atlantis since we had been before. If you decide to taxi over on your own be sure to give yourself plenty of time for the trip back. Traffic can get bad and can significantly affect the amount of time it takes to get back to the ship.
Disembarkation: We were in one of the later groups (orange) since we were staying in Manhattan that night. Due to the number of people it took quite a while to make it off the ship once in line (about 30 minutes), but our luggage was waiting and we picked it up and headed to the taxi stand (across the street). If taking a taxi be careful not to accept any rides other than from the taxi dispatcher at the taxi stand.
Overall a good cruise with a few exceptions. My biggest complaint was the lack of oversight (mostly from parents) for the 1500 children on board. I also was not happy with the size of the balcony....the smallest I have ever had on any cruise line. A lot of the negative reviews state that the service and food were not great, but I think they were good considering the size of the ship and as compared to other cruises.